This Week in Hockey East: Dec. 4, 2008

Letters To Santa

For the final column before the holidays, we’ve once again intercepted mail from Hockey East arenas to the North Pole and are sharing them with you.

On Northeastern stationery:

Greg Cronin here, Santa.

Don’t set me up again, Big Guy. Yeah, we’re 10-3-2. Yeah, we’re in first place.

But seems to me we were there last year too. And what did I ask you for? More of the same.

What did you bring to Matthews Arena? Ahem, let me remind you.

We went 7-14-1 after New Year’s Day. 7-14-1!

Does that sound like more of the same?

I’ll cut to the chase. You dump a mound of coal in my stocking again this year, and I’ll whack you over the head with it.

Got it?

On Vermont stationery:

Santa, this is Kevin Sneddon.

You aren’t the only jolly one this year. We’ve got a five-game winning streak, including a sweep of Boston University when it was ranked number one in the country. And that was on the road! We’re 7-1-1 in our last nine and in second place.

And you wonder why I have a smile plastered from ear to ear?

Sure, we’re not scoring a ton, and we’re giving up a few more goals than I’d like. But I’m not going to complain as long as the wins keep coming.

I’m going to be specific in what I’m asking for. Our second half league schedule begins with Boston College and Northeastern, the two teams we’re closest to right now in the standings. Give us three of four points each weekend and I’ll be dancing in the streets.

On Boston College stationery:

Hey, Santa, this is Jerry York.

My club has been all over the map the first semester. Hot-and-cold special teams. An offense that gets held to only two goals one weekend, then scores 13 the next. A defense that gives up six goals one game, then shuts out its next opponent.

But you know what? With three straight trips to the national title game and a championship last year, I’ve learned that the ups and downs this time of year don’t amount to a hill of beans.

So I’m not worried at all. We’re in third place and we’re poised for a run at four straight NCAA title games.

If you could help with that, that would be great. If not, at least send us into the holiday season with smiles on our faces with a sweep over BU.

Help yourself to some milk and cookies, and go Eagles!

On UMass-Lowell stationery:

What’s up, Big Guy? Blaise MacDonald here.

The league looks like a killer this year, but I really like my team. Fourth place and in striking distance of more. Five wins in the last six games.

Offense and defense. In league play, we’re tops in the league in scoring and fourth in goals-against.

We’ve got a young, optimistic group, and the crowds are growing too.

But we’ve got three really tough games heading into the holidays and I’d like to see the guys remembering success during the break.

So give us a hand during the two games with New Hampshire and the other with Boston University and I’ll leave you a treat next to the fireplace.

On Maine stationery:

Hey, Santa. Tim Whitehead.

Last year we were in last place when I wrote you and we wound up missing the playoffs. It was a tough plunge after reaching the Frozen Four the year before.

Then between graduations and pro signings, we lost a boatload of talent.

So I gotta tell you, 7-4-1 and fifth place doesn’t feel too shabby.

But last year we didn’t get too low, so this year we’re not going to get too high. There’s plenty more you can do for us up here in Orono.

We’ve got a lot of freshmen. Heck, our top two scorers, Gustav Nyquist and Brian Flynn, are rookies and so is our number one goalie, Scott Darling. How does a 1.24 GAA and a .950 sound?

The continued development of that class is going to mean a lot to this program, not just for the stretch run but for future years too. So give them a little boost, would you?

And if you hear about another family like the Kariyas, give me a ring. But keep it just between you and me.

On Massachusetts stationery:

Santa, this is Toot Cahoon.

You know, 6-6-1 isn’t the end of the world, but a lot of people around here were getting their hopes up for more. Starting the season 4-1-1 with a win over North Dakota and a tie with UNH, then kicking BU’s butt, 5-1, got a lot of fans salivating.

(Hey, I don’t have time to rewrite that line about kicking BU’s butt. Just don’t let Jack Parker know I worded it that way. Okay?)

Anyway, we’ve lost four of five so after all these nonconference games, I’d like to see us right the ship in a big way. How about a sweep over UNH in January? That would really give us the kick-start we need for the stretch run.

On Boston University stationery:

Santa, Jack Parker here.

We’re seventh in the country and seventh in Hockey East. That about sums it up.

I really like my team, but I really like a lot of teams in this league. There’s going to be some club that is really good that can’t even get home ice this year. It’s that tough.

But we’ve got our goaltending mojo back, some really clever scorers, and a defense that can rank with anybody. So I’ll take my chances with this club.

If we can have a finishing kick at all like last year, I think we can go places. And I don’t mean the North Pole.

This could be a year like 1999 when Hockey East gets three teams into the Frozen Four. How about making us one of them?

On New Hampshire stationery:

Hey, Santa, Dick Umile here.

One win in our last eight games? Two in our last eleven? When’s the last time we had a losing record this late in the season?

Just slap me and wake me from this nightmare.

No, that’s not my wish. It’s a figure of speech.

I’m just wondering, is this payback for winning the league the last two seasons? For winning it last year running away?

It reminds me a little of 2003-2004 and not in a good way. We were coming off two straight regular season championships that year, too, and sputtered to an okay fourth-place finish.

Just okay, not great.

It took us three games to get to the Hockey East semifinals where we lost. Then we were one-and-done in the NCAAs.

I don’t want to see a repeat of that.

This is a proud program, Santa. Give us a hand getting back to being great. Just okay isn’t good enough.

On Merrimackstationery:

Mark Dennehy here.

Four straight years in the cellar, Santa. Four years.

Not for nothing, but I think you owe us.

This team has talent and works hard. We’ve beaten UNH and UMass, tied Boston College and Maine, and had a couple other heartbreakers.

But this league is a killer. Put us in any other one and we’re a playoff team. Easily. But in Hockey East, it’s going to be tough.

You know, it wouldn’t be asking for anything other than justice to request a playoff berth. It doesn’t have to be fifth place or sixth or even seventh. But the cellar for a fifth straight year just wouldn’t be right. And don’t give us any moral victory of ninth place.

The playoffs or bust.

On Providence College stationery:

Santa, Tim Army.

You being paying attention, oh Jolly Round One?

We’re in last place, 0-8-1 in Hockey East. Since our last nonconference win, we’ve gone 0-9-1 and gotten outscored, 44-18.

In league stats, we’re last in offense, defense, power play, and penalty kill.

Ho, ho, ho that!

By the way, even when we’re in first — least penalty minutes — it shows up as last on the Hockey East stat page. How’s that for an extra slap in the face?

What do we want? You want to know what we want?

Figure it out yourself, you big pantload.

And Finally, Not That It Has Anything To Do With Anything, But…

I just finished an excellent book you may want to consider for yourself or as a gift this season: The Lincoln Lawyer by Michael Connolly. If you like suspense/mysteries, it’s a winner.

It’s available in paperback and there aren’t many better deals for your entertainment dollar — other than college hockey, of course — than paperbacks.

In any case, thanks for reading this year.

Have a safe, healthy and happy holidays, one and all.